As we walked to the wedding, Ben held a tight grip on my hand, dragging me along more than attempting to walk with me. When we approached the sizeable hill which on top sat the location for the ceremony, he let go and bolted to the top, suit pants dragging at his heels. Once I finally found him, sitting anticipatingly in a clean white folding chair, I took the seat next to him, scanning the rows for the rest of the villagers of my house to make sure they’d all gotten here too. This was one of the first times I’d been left alone responsible for the house. After giving him a chance to finish catching his breath, I asked Ben what his favorite part of a Camphill wedding was. Suspecting the energetic man to say something like, “the cake” or just “the reception”, I was surprised to hear him answer with, “seeing everybody dressed up”.
The ceremony itself was exceedingly beautiful. Biographies of the bride and groom were presented, cheers and laughs were elicited from the audience, and leaves fell on top of all our heads, reminding us of our position at the cusp of fall. After the ceremony, there was lunch, then neighborhood presentations, where groups of houses in the village performed various acts for the newlywed couple. Then there was cake, made by an employee of the village. The community worked efficiently to deliver the caramel nut cake to all of its numbers, and as soon as people were starting to leave, it started to downpour.
In the rain, I worked with other people who had volunteered to help pack-up and clean-up from the wedding, and despite some confusion and rush to get out of the rain, the process did not take nearly as long as I had expected it too. When that was done, I began to walk home in the rain, listening to one of my current favorite songs, and it hit me, I was finally beginning to feel like a part of the village.
Camphill Village is a community that serves adults with special needs, in Upstate New York. There are two-hundred and some people who all live and work together in the community, and cooperate to operate several workshops, as well as maintain the village. The village was established in 1961, to address the ways in which people with special needs were treated by society. The values of the community include work, equality, and purpose for all people, which is exemplified in the ways in which people live and work. The community follows a philosophy called anthroposophy, which was created by Rudolf Steiner and extenuated by Karl König into what is known as the Camphill Movement, a model for community life that exists now in countries across the globe.
At Camphill people work in two blocks of the day. Some people may work at the same workshop the entire day, while others, including myself, have their day split between two areas. For me, in the mornings I go to another house in the Village and cook their main meal of the day, which is lunch. To do this, I work with two villagers, whom I’ve had the opportunity to bond with greatly. Cooking is something that is newer to me, and although I can reasonably feed myself, it has been quite the process learning how to cook for a larger group of people. In the afternoons, I go to what is called “The Healing Plant”. The healing plant grows and produces plants for homeopathic remedies, among other things, and processes and sells the crop to companies as a source of income, as well as using it for village use.
Being here has affirmed my sense of direction when it comes to my degree plan and my plans for the future. I have always known I was interested in intentional communities, but now I am confident I would like to study how to create and operationalize community. I hope one day to visit intentional communities and to write a book about the experience so that I can teach others about the lessons we can learn from studying these communities. I hope I can spend a considerable amount of time in the future pursuing knowledge and experiences in communities so that I can use the education to benefit the material conditions of groups of people and to create a better sense of belonging and agency for others.
Camphill is not the place for everyone, and that is ok. However, I am happy to know that I have found a place where I can fit in and find fulfillment in my work and home life, more than many of the settings I’ve found myself in before. Overall, I would encourage anyone who is interested to look into these sorts of communities and to consider their value to society.
For more information on Camphill Copake, visit their website at https://camphillvillage.org/